Most of us will casually discuss the health of our heart, liver, or even gut. But when it comes to prostate health, most men tend to be a bit shy. So here is your reminder: the prostate is like every other trusty organ in your body. Prostate health is important and experiencing prostate changes is common, especially with age. In fact, most men will experience prostate related issues (most commonly urinary discomfort) at some point in their lives.
Just like you eat fruits and veggies to keep your heart healthy, there are steps you can take to keep your prostate healthy as well. Shifts in diet and lifestyle habits can make a big difference. Supplements can also lend their support. In this article, you’ll find our take on 7 supplements that can support a healthy prostate.
But first, what is the prostate?
If biology wasn’t your best subject, here’s a quick refresher: The prostate gland is roughly the size of a walnut and is responsible for maintaining sperm health. It’s an essential biological part of a male’s urinary and reproductive system located between the bladder and penis. Some men can experience prostate problems caused by bacterial infection, genetics, diet or lifestyle habits, but the most common reason is due to age.
How does it impact men’s health?
With age, the prostate gland often increases in size (even up to the size of a lemon) – a process known as benign enlargement hyperplasia (BPH), which impacts about 50% of men in their 50’s, nearly 80% of men in their 70’s, and more than 90% of men 80 and over. And while BPH is often harmless, some men will experience symptoms of urinary discomfort including:
- Difficulty urinating
- Increased frequency and urgency
- Weak flow
- Incomplete emptying
Adjusting your diet and lifestyle may help alleviate some symptoms, but if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort for a prolonged period, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider.
Now some prostate-friendly supplements:
1. Saw palmetto aka American dwarf palm tree
If you’ve ever googled what’s good for your prostate – saw palmetto almost always makes the list. If you’re not familiar, it’s a type of palm tree that’s native to the coast of the southeastern U.S. with a long history of use in traditional medicine – mostly for reproductive and urinary tract issues.
Saw palmetto is thought to support a healthy prostate by keeping certain hormone, like testosterone, in check. More research is needed to better understand how it exactly works, but it’s theorized to decrease the activity of 5-alpha reductase – an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to DHT, a male sex hormone that plays a part in the development of BPH. The berries and extracts from saw palmetto can be eaten whole, dried, made into tea or taken as a supplement.
Small but noteworthy – zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a major role in over 300 enzymatic functions in your body, including in your prostate. Interestingly, your prostate gland stores small amounts of zinc and lower zinc stores have been linked to an increased risk for prostate enlargement. For most people, getting enough zinc via diet isn’t hard, it’s found in oysters, cashews and chickpeas, but because of its many roles and functions in your body, it’s worth keeping tabs on your intake to ensure you’re getting enough.
3. Pumpkin seed oil
The seeds from Fall’s favorite squash (sorry, butternut) are loaded with a slew of vital nutrients, including zinc. The oil from the seeds is believed to have health benefits for the bladder, kidneys and prostate. Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterol, a protective compound that may help reduce the prostate gland from enlarging. While research on the prostate specific benefits of pumpkin seed oil supplements is still unfolding, there’s no harm in chomping down on some pumpkin seeds. So when you’re carving a pumpkin for some spooks or making pumpkin pie this year, be sure to save the seeds! The benefits are all treats – no tricks.
4. Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin works like a hormone in your body and delivers a myriad of health benefits. And while vitamin D is fairly well-known for its immunity, mood and bone health benefits, many don’t realize that the essential vitamin is critical for prostate health as well. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to low levels of testosterone, a hormone that is essential for maintaining the health of your prostate.
Unfortunately, despite being able to get this vitamin from the sun, about 42% of us worldwide aren’t getting enough. And unlike most other vital nutrients, Vitamin D is difficult to get from food sources. One way to up your vitamin D intake is to take a supplement.
Good news: when you’re cooking up a large batch of fresh marina or salsa – you’re not just doing your palate a favor, but your prostate too. Red (especially tomatoes), orange and green fruits and vegetables are rich sources of lycopene. It’s a type of carotenoid, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your prostate cells from damage caused by free radicals. These are nasty substances that can cause harm when they build up in your body. Fresh, canned or dried fruits and vegetables are all great sources of lycopene. Lycopene can also be found in supplement form, though research on the link between lycopene supplementation and prostate health is still unfurling.
6. Milk Thistle
Most often saluted for its liver health promoting benefits – milk thistle has some impressive benefits for your prostate too. It’s a flowering herb native to the Mediterranean area with potent flavonoids (antioxidants) that help balance hormone levels and support prostate health. The most noteworthy flavonoid behind milk thistle’s benefits is silymarin which seems to have protective effects for cells in the prostate gland. At this point in the research though, it’s unclear how beneficial taking a milk thistle supplement is for your prostate health.
7. Green Tea
There’s no denying that sipping green tea has a multitude of health benefits. It’s been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Green tea is rich in catechin antioxidants, specifically epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is believed to support the health of the prostate gland and support healthy urine flow, according to some research. Not a fan of the bitter notes that are in green tea? Try it as iced or in supplement form.
Gabby is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.
Do you have questions on how you may benefit from supplements? Reach out to one of our experts, or take Persona’s free nutrition assessment, and learn exactly what you need to take your wellness to the next level.